By Andrew Abramson
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito, trying to show that he did not bully teammate Jonathan Martin but that they had a close relationship, has offered up more than 1,000 text messages that they exchanged.
One of them, Incognito said on Fox-TV on Sunday, contained a death threat from Martin that he didn’t take seriously.
Incognito, suspended by the team for his treatment of Martin and under investigation by the NFL, said they would routinely send each other harsh messages that, taken out of context, look violent and hurtful.
“I want to clear the air just by saying I’m a good person,” Incognito said.
He also said, “This isn’t an issue of bullying. This is an issue of mine and Jon’s relationship where I’ve taken stuff too far and I didn’t know it was hurting him.”
Meanwhile, a new report Sunday alleged that Dolphins players witnessed Martin, who is in his second season, incur physical abuse by players away from the practice facility last year.
Both Martin and Incognito will miss the Dolphins’ nationally televised game Monday night at Tampa Bay.
Martin left the Dolphins on Oct. 28 and has said through his attorney that he was harassed by Incognito and other unnamed teammates.
Incognito was suspended Nov. 3 after a voice mail he left Martin that included a racial slur and threats to harm Martin’s family went public.
Sunday’s interview was conducted in Los Angeles by Fox’s Jay Glazer, a friend of Incognito’s. Glazer said Incognito has given him 1,142 text messages between him and Martin.
But Glazer publicized just one: A week before leaving the team, Martin allegedly wrote to Incognito, “I will murder your whole (expletive) family.”
Incognito said that didn’t mean anything, nor did the ominous voice mail he left for Martin, which Incognito said was a joke.
“There’s a lot of colorful words thrown around the locker room that we don’t use in everyday life,” Incognito said.
Martin’s attorney wrote Sunday on Twitter that Martin’s text was merely a “meme” — a picture of a woman laughing while holding a puppy with the words about murder meant to invoke irony.
Incognito continues to insists that he and his fellow offensive lineman were friends and that he acted out of “love” for Martin. But Incognito said that he shouldn’t use the n-word in any context.
“It sounds terrible,” Incognito said. “It sounds, when (the transcript) is on the screen, it sounds like I’m a racist pig. It sounds like I’m a meat head. It sounds a lot of things that it’s not.”
Glazer said that because of the NFL investigation, Incognito wouldn’t comment on whether coaches instructed him to “toughen up” Martin.
A team source told The Palm Beach Post last week that coaches, including head coach Joe Philbin, believed Martin was a soft player and that at least one coach wanted Incognito to toughen him up.
Glazer did not ask Incognito about the 2012 incident that came to light last week in which he was investigated by police for using a golf club to molest a volunteer at a Dolphins charity tournament.
Incognito, who long has had a reputation as a dirty player, said his past transgressions makes America think that he’s a “loose cannon” and make the racist allegations more believable. He lauded his teammates for defending him last week.
On Thursday, Martin’s attorney alleged that an unnamed teammate physically attacked Martin. Hours before Incognito’s interview aired, CBS Sports quoted a source alleging that the attack occurred away from the practice field in front of teammates.
The CBS report said the NFL’s investigation is expected to last several weeks. CBS said key questions include:
• Did coaches order that Martin be “toughened up?”
• Did the Dolphins have proper protocols in place for players to report issues of concern?
• Should the team’s coaches — especially those focused on the offensive line — have known more about what was going on with their players?
• Should general manager Jeff Ireland and Philbin have done more for Martin once they learned he was distressed, and again once he left the team?
• Is it widespread and accepted for white players to use the n-word and direct it at black teammates?
• Were Miami’s rookies under more pressure than those in other locker rooms to pay for dinners and trips for veteran players?
The CBS report said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also is under scrutiny, with questions being raised as to whether he is too much of an absentee owner without a grasp of what’s going on in the organization.
Numerous league sources, according to the report, said the organization suffers from a lack of leadership and that some league officials are unsure of the chain of command.
Ireland runs the football operations while the CEO supervises business operations. (CEO Tom Garfinkel recently replaced Mike Dee.) Both report directly to Ross. Dawn Aponte, the team’s executive vice president of football administration, reports to Ireland and has great influence within the organization, especially as a contract negotiator.
This season, she has been more visible. She usually is in the room when Philbin addresses the media.
Miami’s business operations are at Sun Life Stadium and the football operations in Davie. A team source told The Palm Beach Post before the season started that Ross visits his stadium office only about four times a year, with the CEO handling much of the day-to-day operations. Ross is a high-profile real estate developer who conducts much of his business in Manhattan.